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Dog fights can be absolutely terrifying. Luckily, most dog fights are easily broken up with a few simple techniques. But in some cases, specialized tools might be needed to stop dogs from fighting.
Prevention, of course, is absolutely key.
If you’ve got dogs that aren’t predictable around other dogs, know an aggressive dog that lives around the corner, or know your dog doesn’t like your cousin’s pup – just keep the dogs separate.
If you really want to work through aggression, check out our articles on the topic and hire a good trainer:
- How to find a good dog trainer
- Why does my dog bark and lunge at other dogs?
- What Should I Do If A Dog Charges Me and My Dog?
- Why Does My Dog Only Hate Some Dogs?
- My Dog Is REALLY Aggressive to Other Dogs
- My Dog to is Uncontrollable Around Other Dogs – Help!
- My Dog Doesn’t Play With Other Dogs. Is That OK?
- How Do I Teach My Dog to Play Nicely With Other Dogs?
The point is, dog fights should be rare!
However, if you work in a shelter, kennel, vet’s office, or other place where lots of unknown dogs regularly interact, you should know how to use a break stick.
What is a Break Stick?
A break stick is a wedge-shaped tool that you can use to pry open a dog’s jaws in a bite-and-hold dog fight.
I purchase mine from Barry’s Break Sticks.
Normally, I’d link to an Amazon product because that’s how I fund this site. But Barry’s Break Sticks are legitimately my go-to because I know that they’re not made by dogfighters (gulp).
In a pinch, you could use a wooden door jam or just about anything else that’s super sturdy and wedge-shaped. But I like having the right tool for the job!
When Do I Need to Use a Break Stick?
Most dog fights are mostly snarling and snapping – there is a lot of noise but not much damage done. Almost all of these dogfights are easily ended with loud noises (shouting or air horns).
I also like to use citronella spray for these fights – it’s easier to aim, meaning you won’t scare the crap out of the rest of the dogs in the vicinity!
Some dog fights escalate to a bit more serious – the dogs still aren’t latching onto each other and holding on, but they’re not just threatening each other anymore. They mean business.
Most of these dog fights can still be ended with:
- An air horn or other loud noise
- Citronella spray
- A blanket tossed over the dogs
- Leashes (if the dogs are already wearing them)
- A door closed between the two dogs or large object slid between them
- A hose sprayed at them
Be sure not to put your hands or feet between the dogs – get an inanimate object to take the blows instead! This is really, really important. Many very serious dog bites happen when people rush in to break up a dog fight without thinking.
There are still some other fights where a break stick is needed.
You need a break stick only if the other methods don’t work AND the fight is what’s called a grab-and-hold fight.
This means that one or more dogs has grabbed onto the other dog and won’t let go.
This can be really, really scary – but you’ve got to keep your cool. Trying to pull the dogs apart will cause more damage, ripping through flesh. Yikes.
How to Use a Break Stick
- Grasp the gripping dog by the scruff of the neck or collar.
- Straddle the dog, putting firm pressure onto the dog’s sides with your feet or legs to prevent the dog from redirecting (biting you).
- Insert the break stick between the gripping dog’s jaws behind his or her canine teeth. There’s a natural gap here. Wedge the break stick in as far as you can!
- Kaep your other hand out of the way (remember, it should be holding onto the dog’s scruff or collar).
- Rotate the break stick back towards you. This should pry the dog’s jaws open. You might have to wiggle and work at it a bit – dogs have very strong jaws.
- Hold the dog in place while someone else removes the other dog from the situation. You may need to use a lot of pressure with your legs to keep ahold of the dog – but do not release him or her until the other dog is secure.
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.